Mental Health in TurkeyTurkey, a land of diverse cultures and traditions, serves as a bridge connecting Europe and Asia. With a profound history that shapes its very core, Turkey has undergone substantial recent transformations, marked by modernization and urbanization. This evolution has propelled economic growth and infrastructure development to new heights. Nonetheless, alongside these encouraging advancements, there have been noticeable challenges, particularly in the realm of mental health. While common mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression are prevalent in Turkey, as they are in numerous other nations, the country has experienced a comparatively higher rate of psychiatric hospitalizations in recent times.

The Prevalence of Common Disorders

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the population of Turkey has confronted a surge in mental health challenges over recent years, with individuals grappling with anxiety and depression, stemming from factors like natural disasters, economic downturns and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The WHO’s findings indicate a staggering 3.2 million people affected by depression, accompanied by an over 50% escalation in the usage of antidepressants during the past five years. With an increasing number of individuals in Turkey seeking medical support for their mental well-being, the prevalence of these issues underscores the significance of global education regarding the essential understanding of the mind on par with the physical body.


The Union of Medical Relief and Care Organizations (UOSSM), established in 2012 in France, is a collaborative effort of member organizations from countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland and Turkey. Together, these members pool resources and coordinate projects to deliver relief and medical assistance to victims of war in Syria. Amid the complex relationship between Turkey and Syria, Turkey has extended aid to refugees seeking refuge within its borders. Throughout the past decade of the Syrian crisis, mental health has emerged as an enduring concern, growing even more pronounced due to the ongoing exposure to traumatic experiences. In response, Turkey has instituted an array of mental health programs and provided medications, aiming to alleviate the profound psychological distress endured by the affected population.

Psychiatric Hospitalization

Amidst the pandemic lockdown, notable trends have emerged in the realm of psychiatric conditions. While it is widely acknowledged that rates of patients grappling with anxiety and depression tend to surge during lockdown periods, a distinct rise in the diagnosis of bipolar disorders has also been observed subsequent to the pandemic quarantine. This uptick in psychiatric hospitalizations serves as a clear signal for policymakers to redirect their focus toward enhancing mental health services and implementing preventative measures to effectively manage the mental well-being landscape in Turkey before the situation gets worse.

Stigma and Awareness

As various nations grapple with distinct stigmas and societal expectations, these diverse social dynamics present barriers for individuals dealing with physical and mental illnesses. A social study has unveiled a correlation between supernatural causal beliefs and heightened stigma surrounding mental health. Conversely, the recognition of one’s ongoing stress levels has demonstrated a capacity to diminish this stigma.


In conclusion, Turkey’s intricate tapestry of diverse cultures stands as a testament to its remarkable evolution over the years. Turkey’s journey through economic, social and political changes has led to an elevation in the rates of common mental health issues within the population. Nevertheless, Turkey is dedicated to alleviating societal pressures by offering robust mental health services and resources for its citizens to rely on.

– Sandy Kang
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Tunisia
Tunisia, a center of Arab culture and home to 11.7 million Tunisians, has been making significant strides in improving its care for mental health across all stages of life. Battling the overwhelming stigma and discrimination against individuals facing mental health issues, Tunisian citizens have been working diligently to change attitudes toward mental health in their country. Mental health in Tunisia ranges from disorders to everyday anxiety struggles; however, most cases go undiagnosed as many are afraid to bring upon themselves the stigma associated with being publicly labeled as a person with a mental health disorder. Nonetheless, consistent effort to reduce mental health stigma has improved Tunisia’s overall public health. 

The Conception of Mental Health Among the Youth

Since 2012, International Alert, a peacebuilding organization, has been working with Tunisia to support a peaceful democratic transition, guaranteeing the inclusion of excluded and marginalized groups. In 2022, they conducted a survey-based study to analyze the impression of mental health among Tunisian youth and their personal experiences with mental health struggles. The study concluded that Tunisia’s youth lacked knowledge about mental health. However, when questioned about mental health in Tunisia, there were both positive and negative responses. A significant number of participants rated their mental health negatively and were reluctant to admit their struggles with mental health issues. They were also hesitant to seek assistance from mental health facilities or psychologists, despite being aware of the need for professional help. 

Obstacles: Institutional and Social

There are two types of obstacles evident in the study: institutional and social obstacles. These two categories can be intertwined and mutually reinforcing. For instance, the lack of accessible services has resulted in an absence of a mental health culture in Tunisia. Additionally, the cost of treatment further exacerbates the issue of inaccessibility for marginalized and discriminated groups in Tunisia. The stereotypes that arise from the absence of a mental health culture have led to prejudice, stigma and bullying against individuals who struggle with mental health issues daily.

READ Training

Based on the background information regarding mental health in Tunisia, it is evident that both social and institutional changes are necessary. In 2017, a team of psychiatrists from Razi Hospital initiated the Responding to Experienced and Anticipated Discrimination (READ) program. This program aims to provide anti-stigma training to medical students at Tunis Medical School. The effectiveness of this training has been demonstrated in high-income countries, raising hopes among professionals for similar outcomes in Tunisia.

The main goal of the Tunisia READ training is to build people’s knowledge of stigma and combat its daily effects on individuals. Awareness of attitudes towards mental illness and psychiatry is the first step towards improvement because recognizing a problem is essential to fixing it. Following this goal is the aim to reduce discriminatory behavior towards individuals with mental health disorders and their caregivers.

Despite the initial challenges posed by the pre-existing attitudes of medical students and citizens, the trainers of this program persevered and remained consistent in their goals. They actively engaged with people to implement an improved attitude towards mental health in Tunisia.


In conclusion, Tunisia has been actively addressing the stigma surrounding mental health and making efforts to improve the overall care for individuals facing mental health issues. The study conducted among Tunisian youth highlighted the lack of knowledge and reluctance to seek professional help, indicating the need for institutional and social changes. Initiatives like the READ training program have shown promise in raising awareness and combating stigma, with dedicated trainers working persistently to foster a positive attitude towards mental health in Tunisia. Continued efforts and consistent engagement are crucial for achieving lasting improvements in mental health care and reducing discrimination in the country.

– Sandy Kang
Photo: Pixabay

Stigma Against Refugees
“The Swimmers” is a 2022 Netflix production telling the remarkable true story of two sisters, Sara and Yusra Mardini, as they flee the war in their hometown of Damascus, Syria, in search of a better life in Germany. Inspired by true events, the movie captures the harrowing journey refugees undertake in their pursuit of safety and a brighter future, and in doing so, fights stigma against refugees by allowing the audience to empathize and relate to the characters.

The characters first journey to the Greek island of Lesbos, risking their lives in the open sea on an overcrowded boat. To prevent the boat from sinking, Sara and Yusra jump into the water and swim for the remainder of the journey. What follows is their arrival in Berlin and the path that led Yusra to compete for the refugee team in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

The Realities Refugees Face

A strong script and good production capture the journey and realities that the refugees face across the sea and once in Europe. The contrast between friendship and life in Damascus with a near-death experience in open sea creates enduring empathy and humanizes the characters involved as the audience witnesses them separate from their families and the place they once called home.

The detail of the account makes the film an educational experience, outlining the process involved in accommodating such numbers of people and the lengthy bureaucratic procedures necessary to obtain official documentation. The scenes after the refugees’ arrival in Berlin are hauntingly endearing. The movie also highlights the susceptibility of refugees to exploitation and abuse along the journey.

The German government under Angela Merkel admitted more than 1 million refugees into the country in 2015. The movie depicts this once the sisters and their cousin process their photos and fingerprints, after which authorities separate them into male and female shelters. The identical dorms are scattered across a massive floor plan of what appears to be a warehouse, offering beds and storage space, but little to no privacy and personal space for the people inside. A beautiful scene, in the recognition of the government’s investment and efforts to accommodate the asylum seekers, with the somber aftertaste of realizing that many refugee needs still go unmet.

The Refugee Journey

As much as the story focuses on the journey and relationship of Sara and Yusra Mardini, the movie has a split dynamic, dancing on the line that separates the collective from the individual. This cleft dynamic is a central theme. The plot follows the story of the two sisters and is set against the backdrop of millions who have undertaken the same treacherous journey, with continuous reminders of the fortune of those who survived and succeeded in obtaining refuge.

According to data by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of mid-2022, there were more than 100 million forcibly displaced people globally, 32.5 million of which are refugees, with 6.8 million having fled Syria.

The outcome of the split approach the movie adopts highlights the collective plight of refugees and the far-reaching impacts of mass forced displacement while emphasizing the individuality of every person undertaking the difficult journey in search of refuge.

Changing Perceptions Through Information and Education

The efficacy of movies in conveying complex issues and situations is irrefutable. Sensory targeting of the auditory and visual imaginations transports the audience into the character’s shoes, creating empathy and understanding. Yusra emphasizes the importance of the education system in addressing the stigma against refugees by disseminating information and dispelling myths. Yusra, since her appearance at two back-to-back Olympic Games, has become a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and states that the movie will have a strong impact on fighting the stigma against refugees, enabling people to discuss displacement more openly and gain a better understanding of it.

This is a crucial step to take in addressing the stigma against refugees. The prerequisite to changing perceptions of refugees is understanding and acknowledging their struggles and their human need for safety and a stable future. People flee from war and poverty in search of better conditions to live their life. The harsh reality is that for many, conditions do not improve much. Globally refugees struggle to meet their basic requirements for health care, education and sustenance. UNHCR data outlines that four in five Syrian refugees in Jordan lived below the national poverty line prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the movie, Yusra struggled with being unable to represent her birth country, Syria, at the Olympic games. Initially fearing earning her Olympic place due to pity, her experiences eventually amalgamate into a sense of pride at representing the Refugee Olympic Team and turn her into a voice of inspiration and advocacy for all those experiencing what she went through.

Effectively capturing the plight of refugees in a movie fights the stigma against refugees by providing the foundation for this education to begin. This is a story of struggle, hardship and love, the intensities of which many cannot hope to fathom, condensed into a runtime of two hours and 15 minutes.

– Bojan Ivancic
Photo: Flickr

Mental health awarenessMental health is an issue that, until recently, people shied away from talking about. While it can be a sensitive topic for people, it is one that society needs to talk about. By discussing mental health, people can help raise awareness of the issue. Celebrities are known to have an influence on their fans, so when they speak about a cause they care about, people tend to listen. Here are a few celebrities who are known mental health awareness advocates.

5 Celebrities Advocating for Mental Health Awareness

  1. Demi Lovato. Actor and singer Demi Lovato has frequently spoken about their struggles with mental illness. Lovato has been a mental health activist since 2015 when they revealed they were diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Wanting to help others struggling with mental illness, Lovato started the Mental Health Fund, which provides people with free counseling during the COVID-19 pandemic. In society, asking for help can be seen as a weakness. Lovato believes otherwise. In an interview with Deseret News, Lovato said, “The strongest thing someone can do is take that first step in getting help, whatever shape or form that is.” This charity raises money for the Crisis Text Line and crisis counseling options in Canada and the United Kingdom. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the public’s mental health so organizations like these have a significant impact on society.
  2. Kristen Bell. Actress Kristen Bell is a longtime and well-known advocate of mental health awareness. Fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness, Bell believes mental health check-ins should be as common as going to the dentist or doctor. Bell has struggled with depression and has spoken about why mental health screenings should be taken more seriously. There are often stereotypes surrounding depression, but like Bell said in an interview with NAMI, “You can’t tell someone has depression just by looking at them, especially since it’s such an internal battle.” With celebrities like Bell speaking about their own struggles with mental illness, fans will better see that there is no shame in asking for help.
  3. Simone Biles. Simone Biles is the most awarded gymnast in history. The Olympian also has her own battles with mental illness. Biles goes to therapy on a regular basis and takes anxiety medication. These revelations arose after Biles stood up as a survivor of Larry Nassar’s abuse. Victims of sexual assault have an increased risk of developing PTSD, depression and anxiety. In 2017, Biles partnered with the #BeUnderstood campaign, which advocated for learning disabilities and ADHD awareness during the month of October. Biles has also spoken out about her experience with ADHD.
  4. Chyler Leigh. Chyler Leigh, known for her roles on Grey’s Anatomy and Supergirl, has not shied away from sharing her experiences with bipolar disorder. As the new face for the Be Vocal: Speak Up campaign, Leigh shared her experiences of growing up without a diagnosis. Leigh says that she did not have an environment where she could speak up, so she kept quiet. She also spoke about self-medicating with alcohol and the struggle she went through with getting help. Joining Be Vocal was a way of opening up to the public. By sharing her story, Leigh hoped for people to hear her experience and relate, knowing that they are not alone in feeling that way.
  5. Justin Bieber. In his YouTube docuseries “Seasons,” Justin Bieber gave his fans an inside look at his struggles with addiction and mental health challenges. His addiction to marijuana became so serious that he became dependent on it. He also spoke about his use of stronger substances like MDMA or hallucinogenic mushrooms. Bieber got help and replaced illegal substances with antidepressants. In his efforts to help advocate for mental health, Bieber gave a fan $100,000 to support her career in social work. Part of the donation helped the fan attend grad school while the rest of it went to Active Minds, an organization that raises mental health awareness for college students.

Global Mental Health

Though raising mental health awareness domestically is essential, there are many people without access to proper mental healthcare globally. As of 2016, high-income nations spent around 5% of their health budgets on mental health. For lower-middle-class nations, that number fell to less than 2%. There are fewer trained psychiatrists in developing countries, which makes it hard to address everyone’s illnesses.

In Indonesia, there was one psychiatrist for every 350,000 people. Haiti, a country with roughly 10 million people, has only about “10 licensed psychiatrists.” Without the proper funding, developing countries struggle to make mental health a priority.

Spreading Awareness

Mental health issues are very common in society, but they often do not spark the necessary discussion. Part of this reason is because of the stigma surrounding mental illness. Everyone is capable of contributing to mental health awareness. By posting about mental health on social media, donating to mental health organizations or supporting people with resources, an ordinary individual can contribute to improving mental health globally.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in JapanDespite being a small country, Japan still holds a significant position in the international community by having the third-largest economy in the world. Japan does well in terms of wealth inequality, ranking well below the international average of 0.73, standing at 0.63. Income equality is an important factor in determining the general health status of a country. Specifically, the measurement tends to be an indicator of a country’s mental health prevalence. Countries with a higher rate of wealth inequality tend to have a higher prevalence of mental illness and vice versa. Mental health in Japan is also often impacted by the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

Prevalence of Mental Diseases in Japan

The prevalence of Common Mental Diseases (CMD) in Japan is relatively low. Japan stacks up favorably against the United States, which ranks fourth globally in wealth inequality and has recorded a prevalence of CMD that is approximately three times that of Japan. Compared with China, which has the largest economy in the world after the United States, the rate of CMD in Japan is somewhat similar. Japan’s balanced economy has helped it maintain a low prevalence of mental illness.

One other potential reason for Japan’s low CMD prevalence is the stigma surrounding mental health in Japanese culture. Japanese society has conditioned its members to believe that a mental health disorder is shameful and signifies a lack of willpower. In a June 2018 study on the perception of mental illness in Japan, more than 80% of Japanese participants believed that treatment could cure depressive disorder or schizophrenia but stigma toward people with schizophrenia was still quite apparent.

Mental Illness Stigma

As a result of Japan’s collectively held stigma, persons affected by mental illness often do not seek treatment. One study which looked at the factors of mental health in Japan found that “the proportion of mental health service use by all persons and those with CMD was lower in Japan compared to most high‐income countries from the 2000s to the 2010s.” This suggests that the CMD prevalence rate in Japan is likely higher in reality while mental illnesses are underreported.

Additionally, many Japanese people do not believe that mental illnesses require professional treatment. There are treatments available in the country for many mental health disorders and “almost two-thirds of sufferers never seek help from a health professional.” The responsibility of caring for a mentally ill person usually falls upon the family or relatives.

It is evident that the negative perceptions surrounding mental health in Japan cause many people to suffer in silence. To combat the stigma against mental illness and schizophrenia, the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology changed the Japanese name of schizophrenia from seishi buntetsu byo (split-mind disorder) to togo shiccho sho (loss of coordination disorder). Although Japan has yet to celebrate its success in ending stigma, even minor changes illustrate that the country is evolving to no longer neglect mental health.

Looking Ahead

The powerful stigma around mental illness in Japan has kept Japanese people from seeking treatment and simultaneously oppresses mentally ill people. The stable economy of Japan, when paired with appropriate wealth distribution, has partially contributed to a low prevalence of CMD as the two are essentially related. However, since the stigma around mental illness is so prevalent in Japan, the low CMD prevalence in the country can also point to the fact that mental diseases are underreported. Improving the nature of mental health in Japan will require the aid of rewriting social norms and reframing mental illness. Japan’s efforts so far are promising for combating mental health stigma in the country.

Eliza Kirk
Photo: Flickr

Bipolar Awareness in IndiaIndia is the second-most densely populated nation in the world, with more than 1.3 billion people. Of that number, more than 82 million citizens suffer from bipolar disorder, according to data from 2019. Bipolar disorder in India often goes undiagnosed and untreated for reasons ranging from ancient superstitions to the cost of treatment, but, bipolar awareness in India is steadily progressing.

Bipolar Disorder in India

Improved bipolar awareness in India exemplifies how a concerted effort can reduce stigma and create an affordable and readily available avenue for treatments such as therapy and medication. Indians, mostly women, have been disowned and abandoned by family or a spouse after receiving a bipolar diagnosis. In a country where the consequences of a mental condition are isolation and disconnection, the need for awareness and education is paramount.

A nation that once attributed bipolar disorder to demonic spirits, planetary alignments or a sinful past life, has come extremely far in its understanding of the illness. But, the stigma surrounding the disorder is still prevalent in India, and many, especially those from rural locations, believe bipolar disorder is a choice or an illness reserved for the rich and privileged.

BipolarIndia Organization

One resource improving bipolar awareness in India is the organization BipolarIndia. The community was created in 2013 by Vijay Nallawala, an Indian man that suffers from bipolar disorder, and his mentor and friend, Puneet Bhatnagar. BipolarIndia’s mission is to create an empathetic, judgment-free environment for bipolar people to find information, treatment, and most of all, support from those that can relate to their struggle.

BipolarIndia hosts a National Conference every year on World Bipolar Day to create awareness for the illness and educate residents from all over the country. In 2015, the organization began hosting monthly support meetings for individuals to speak with peers that can understand their struggle. It has also recently developed a way for patients to receive real-time support through the Telegram App when they feel they may need immediate help. Resources such as the Telegram App are invaluable due to the lack of mental health professionals in India.

The Mental Health Care Bill

Data from a 2005 report shows that there are only three psychiatrists per million citizens and only 0.06% of India’s healthcare budget goes toward improving mental healthcare. The Indian Government passed a Mental Health Care Bill in June of 2013 laying out a mission to improve bipolar awareness in India as well as reduce stigma surrounding all mental health issues. The bill has been undergoing revisions and policy modifications based on the guidance given by the Indian Association of Psychiatry.

Efforts to Raise Awareness

The government’s efforts to raise awareness about the complexity of bipolar disorder and the number of Indians that suffer in silence is vital to the disorder being understood. The Indian government aims to provide communities with adequate care and reliable information, leading the nation to a better understanding of a complicated mental disorder.

Bipolar awareness in India has improved with private organizations such as the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) funding research on effective treatments and raising awareness across the globe.

Also fighting for bipolar awareness, Indian celebrities, including Deepika Padukone, Rukh Kahn, Yo Yo Honey Singh and Anushka Sharma, have stepped forward and opened up about their personal battles with bipolar disorder, combatting the stigma surrounding the illness.

The Road Ahead

Bipolar awareness in India has slowly improved but still has a long way to go. If the government aims to change the attitude toward bipolar disorder and improve treatment, a significant investment in research is vital as well as a comprehensive understanding of the disorder.

–  Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr